Monday, October 02, 2006

Are logins before download any good?

If you are used to open source products, chances are you have gone through this routine more than once. Search for what you need, find a suitable product, go to its web site, download it, test it. Then, if you like it, you start using it right away, otherwise you dump it without a second thought.
The whole process takes less than one minute for small packages. But anyway, even for larger packages, the total time that this whole business requires your attention is very low. Even if it requires a huge download, it can be left unattended and you can resume the testing task when you feel like it. The bottom line is that we got used to a quick try-and-use process of open source products.

Sometimes, though, while performing the above routine, there is a unexpected obstacle. The product maker requires a free login. You don't have to pay anything, but you have to go through the motions of filling a form that asks you everything about your precious self, your company, education, employment history, financial health, and so forth.
Filling these forms is really annoying for several reasons:

  • You got used to the quick download-and-try business, and this sudden stop is not welcome
  • You can't see any added value in this form filling. Actually, you are sure that your level of spam (both by email and by regular mail) will increase;
  • You think at the waste of time this form is, especially considering that you may be throwing the whole product away after ten minutes.
  • This is contrary to the whole open source spirit, where you achieve success by providing a good product. The register-bedore-downloading strategy, instead, tries to cheat into a let's-grab-a-potential-customer-as-soon-as-he-shows-up utterly losing attitude.
After this problem has bitten you once or twice, you start developing a strong defense strategy. The next time some site asks you for a registration before downloading, you start filling the form with fake information, using a temporary but legitimate email address, claiming to run a multi-million dollar business, and presto! you get away with the download, never to be seen to that site again, unless that product is really a earth-shakening tool (which seldom is, in those cases).

And so here are two reasons not to impose a registration before downloading an open source product:
  • It's useless. If you want to cheat the unfair system, they can't do nothing to prevent it.
  • It's damaging. If they want to propose an open source product, imposing a registration is like screaming: "Hey! We want to play the open source game, but we are totally and hopelessly unaware of how to play the game. Cheat us!"
Which I usually do.

Also published at ITToolbox

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